MO’s Pine Hill reopens

Photo from the Pine Hill Drive-In Facebook page

I’m worried that I gave listeners the wrong impression Sunday morning. I was talking about drive-ins on Road Dog Trucking Radio, SiriusXM Channel 146. The show was Dave Nemo Weekends, hosted by Jimmy Mac. (Thanks, Jimmy!) Towards the end of the segment, he asked me about the future of drive-ins. Last week, I spent some time pruning the Carload drive-in list, and seeing a dozen healthy drive-ins shut down since the start of the pandemic left me a little bummed out. I gave an example or two of drive-ins that were reopening, but the fresh memory of those closures might have made me sound less optimistic than usual.

Now that I’m back to rummaging around for good news, I found an item that’s particularly close to home for me. The Pine Hill Drive-In in Piedmont MO had been in operation since 1953, but it closed in 2015 and was put up for sale soon after. I saw this historic, intact theater and hoped that someone would take over and get it ready for movies again. That finally happened when new owners bought the place in the fall of 2021 and reopened it just a few weeks ago on Memorial Day weekend.

Alva “A.B.” and Maude Jefferis built the Pine Hill in 1953 and lived in a house they also built behind the back fence of the drive in. Maude made the newspapers in 1973 when she photographed a number of odd blinking lights “high above the drive-in movie screen that stands beyond a pond in Mrs. Jefferis’s front yard.” The Pine Hill passed through another couple of owners after that, and I’m happy that it stayed active well into the new millennium. Now that it has fresh owners, I hope the drive-in can stay alive for another 70 years.

Updated Drive-Ins of Route 66 now shipping

Drive-Ins of Route 66, expanded second edition, front cover

The updated, expanded, sometimes corrected Second Edition of my first book, Drive-Ins of Route 66, is now available from Amazon and your local bookstore (if you ask them to order it for you). Sorry I didn’t mention it earlier, but I’ve had my head down working on my next book.

Years ago, when I wrote the first version of this book, I was rushing to meet deadlines to exhibit it at the Frankfurt Book Fair. I was hoping that someone in Europe would want to publish a translation, the way I hoped that the PowerBall ticket I bought this past Saturday would make me a millionaire. Like that ticket, my German excursion only gave me the fun of taking part in the game.

Even as I was writing that first edition, my approach was evolving. I started with simple, straightforward descriptions of each drive-in with brief notes. As I worked my way west, I told longer anecdotes of the people behind the drive-ins. I carried that idea forward in my second book, Drive-Ins of Colorado, where I tried harder to focus on the owners’ stories. Humans are more interesting than buildings, even screen towers.

Meanwhile, that first book was becoming a little embarrassing. Nobody complained, but I could see a few mistakes. The first whopper was an omission – Marshfield MO was home to the Skyline Drive-In, with an entrance right on US 66. It didn’t last very long and never appeared on any topo maps, but Boxoffice had mentioned Marshfield’s Skyline a couple of times, so I felt bad about its absence. Then I saw that in using an incorrect third-party maps of old Route 66, I had overlooked a bunch of St. Louis-area drive-ins that were close enough to an old Alt-66.

In addition to adding the drive-ins that I’d flat-out missed before, I widened the search to include any within three miles instead of the arbitrary two and a half. I started writing the expanded version without a hard deadline, which was good because the soft deadlines I marked for myself went whizzing by as I kept looking for another photo or a new detail. The result was a book that I’m proud of, 95% rewritten with more drive-ins, more photos, and better stories.

On the other hand, the new book’s only been out a few weeks, yet I’ve already found a few areas that could be improved. I’ve got a new way of covering that – a corrections and updates section on the official book page here on Carload. This will also be a nice way for me to link to some great online photos that I couldn’t add to the book itself.

Anyway, please go buy my book and tell your drive-in-loving friends about it. When my next book comes out, later this year, I’ll tell you more about that one too.

Missouri drive-in reopening after 39 years

Refurbishment is well underway from the looks of this screen capture from a video on the Rock ‘N’ Roll Drive-In’s Facebook page.

Here’s more great news about the resuscitation of another long-dead drive-in. This time it’s the old Montgomery Drive-In in southeast Missouri. It closed after the 1981 season, but work is underway to reopen it this October as the Rock ‘N’ Roll Drive-In.

The new/old drive-in is about five miles due west of the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport. News reports call the community Blomeyer, an unincorporated area of Cape Girardeau County. The business sharing the site today gets its mail from the city of Chaffee, which is where the old drive-in lists placed it. Enough about that.

The original Montgomery held its grand opening on Easter Sunday, April 10, 1955, the same day Home of the Stars Drive-In also opened in Chaffee. That competitor closed in less than a decade. The Montgomery, owned first by Bernice Montgomery, had to rebuild its screen after a storm blew down the original redwood version in 1965. The new screen was made of steel-reinforced concrete. Clearly, it was built right.

That sturdy concrete screen is the focal point of Rock-in-Roll Drive-In co-owners Chuck Stratton and Jonny Tosarello. They’re working to clear the viewing field and clean the foliage off the screen, as they described to KFVS, Cape Girardeau’s News Leader. (That link includes a video. Wish I could have embedded it for you.)

Stratton told the SE Missouri State student newspaper, the Arrow, that he plans to charge by the Carload. Food trucks and a concession stand will provide the dining experience.

Tosarello said they were adding a new wrinkle. “We’re going to put effect lighting in all the trees and speakers in all the trees, and we’re going to time load those to the movies. So, when you’re watching a movie, something explodes, all the trees will turn red.” Let’s hope someone captures a video of that.